The Christmas stories of Connie Willis & her favorite Christmas movies

Connie Willis, MiracleConnie Willis is an award-winning science fiction author and a deft satirist of contemporary foibles.  (Read her novel Bellwether.  Never again will you take seriously fashions, trends, or being cool.)  She is also a Christian.  (For more on her biography, go here.)

She has published a collection of short stories about Christmas–gift idea!–entitled Miracles and Other Christmas Stories.   I’m reading them as part of my Advent and Christmas observance and enjoying them greatly.  Some of them are of the Miracle on 34th Street-type warm-hearted type, only funnier, others are darker but thought-provoking, and some are about the True Meaning of Christmas.

Also of value in that volume is her introduction, in which she discusses the genre and gives her favorite Christmas stories. She then discusses Christmas movies.  After a gentle critique of It’s a Wonderful Life and an illuminating reading of said Miracle on 34th Street, she gives her favorite movies, most of which you will probably never have heard of.  So we dug up three of them that I’ll tell you about after the jump. [Read more…]

“What good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a church?”

LaurusRod Dreher has interviewed Eugene Vodolazkin, the author of Laurus, which we posted about yesterday.  Read what he has to say.  Sample:

During the perestroika period, we had a great film, Repentance, by the Georgian director Tengiz Abuladze . It’s a movie about the destruction wrought by the Soviet past. The last scene of the film shows a woman baking a cake at the window. An old woman passing on the street stops and asks if this way leads to the church. The woman in the house says no, this road does not lead to the church. And the old woman replies, “What good is a road if it doesn’t lead to a church?”

More after the jump.

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An epic Christian novel

LaurusI’ve just finished Laurus, a novel by the Russian author Eugene Vodolazkin, an Orthodox Christian, and I’m still savoring the experience, which is one of being immersed in the medieval mind.

The novel is the story of Arseny, who as a lad is apprenticed to his grandfather, a physician.  Arseny has a gift of healing that goes beyond his expertise in herbal remedies.  A love story ensues, which sets him on a quest for atonement, both for himself and for the woman he caused to sin.  Arseny becomes a “holy fool.”  Then, accompanied by a western Catholic who has visions of the future, he sets off on a long and perilous pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Then he becomes a monk.  Then an anchorite.  And, overall, a kind of saint.

The book is “immersive”–that is, wholly involving, so that reading it creates the illusion of entering the mind of someone who inhabits 15th century Russia, an amalgam of earthiness, superstitions, visionary experiences, medieval lore, intimations of eternity, and open-hearted piety. [Read more…]

How God uses fiction

Someone whose life had become a shambles tells how God used fiction to save his life. [Read more…]

Novels every Christian should consider reading

I previously blogged about my contribution–a review of Huckleberry Finn–to a blog series that Justin Taylor is running on “novels every Christian should consider reading.”  I urge you to read the whole series, which includes different Christians’ take on classic novels like Tom Jones, entertaining reads like Patrick O’Brian’s sea sagas, and finds that I, for one, hadn’t heard of but am now anxious to read, like Mark Helprin’s Soldier of the Great War.

And now I turn the topic over to you.  What do you think are some novels every Christian should consider reading?

Evangelicals discover George Herbert

Finally, as I have been agitating for throughout my career, modern-day Christians are discovering George Herbert, whom I consider to be the greatest and most spiritually satisfying Christian poet.  Now Wesley Hill writes about him in Christianity Today.

If you want a guide to Herbert’s poetry–what he is doing aesthetically, theologically, and spiritually–you should read my book on the subject, which is newly brought back in print, another sign of the Herbert revival. [Read more…]